Tuesday, June 18, 2013
With Dallas Farmers Market not under city control, what happens to Pecan Lodge?
Keeping Pecan Lodge at the market is high on the to-do list, said one of the principals on the project.
DALLAS For the first time since December 1941, Dallas’ downtown farmers market is no longer under the control of the city — a fact reiterated in a memo sent this morning to Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city council.
“Dallas Farmers Market Property Sold,” says the note from Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans, who put together the $3.2-million deal between 1500 Marilla and DF Market Holdings, LLC. The council was presented with their plans back in February, when they were presented with renderings of restaurants and retail outlets and apartments and an amphitheater and on and on, but on Monday it finally became official.
“It’s been a labor of love,” says Blair Black, who, along with real-estate developer Brian Bergersen, restauranteur Janet Cobb, and Standard Fruit and Vegetable’s Ruthie Pack, is one of the principals in DF Market Holdings and its $64.3 million overhaul. “A few of us have been working on this for over four years. We’re excited about it. We see the potential even with just doing some minor changes. There’s been a void in downtown, and we hope to fill it in and make it a destination place the city desperately needs.”
Farmers market patrons will no longer be able to park beneath Shed 1.
But don’t expect to see any big changes in the near future. Evans says that a sewer line running beneath several of the sheds needs to be moved before anything’s done. After that, the new owners will raze the kiosk currently occupied by La Marketa Cafe, as well as the next-door building on Taylor Street that over the years has housed everything from restaurants to warehouses.
That will be followed by the redevelopment of Shed 1, the redo of Shed 2, and the demolitions of Shed 3 and 4.
Shed 1, which houses the local farmers, is scheduled to have some 60 booths, or twice the current number of spaces. Patrons won’t be able to park beneath the shed, and farmers won’t be able to back in to their stalls — the latter just one reason several of them keep hinting privately that they’ll be gone come this time next year. Evans, though, insists their concerns are nothing new and says it’s just “anxiety” that comes whenever anyone mentions the word “change” to long-timers who’d like things to stay the same.
“There come waves of anxiety, and when these waves, occur the manager of the convention center and the new operator will go out there and tell we’re not going to do anything until the growing season. What they seem to always want is certainty, as we all do: ‘What’s around the corner, and what will happen?’”
Shed 2, home of the beloved Pecan Lodge and other eateries and food-related retailers, will also get a makeover — though whether or not it will include Texas Monthly's Top 5′ing barbecue-maker is way up in the air. Justin Fourton told Daniel Vaughn just a couple of weeks ago that he started looking for a new space back in September, and while he’d like to work with the new developers, “having a space where we can control the atmosphere, the music, the beer sales, and the smoker capacity would be great for us.”
Black says keeping Pecan Lodge is high on the group’s to-do list.
“We’d love to keep them as a tenant,” he says. “We’re not sure where they stand. Jack Gosnell and his team at UCR were going to be speaking with them. We’re trying to get all the info we can, but we’d love to make that happen.”
Gosnell says Tuesday morning that Fourton is “looking at his options. But we’ve told him, 'We’re not going to put you out of business.'” Gosnell says the new operators are hoping to create an “autonomous retail venture that can be its own entity for a while” in front of Shed 2 “while we’re doing the heavy lifting” inside, including, perhaps, adding some upstairs seating.
“We’ve said to Justin, ‘Why would you abandon where everyone knows you and you’ve got a line 200 miles long? Let us fix it for you,’” says Gosnell, who adds there’s a plan to give him as much space as he needs to expand his increasingly popular eatery that fills Shed 2 with hundreds of line-waiting diners. “We think we can save him. Pecan Lodge is an anchor for us.”
Gosnell says he has “loose letters of intent” with other restaurants and retailers as well, some of which are also “very high-profile,” in the words of the assistant city manager. But Black and Gosnell aren’t yet ready to name names.
Black and Gosnell are also heading to Fort Worth this morning to meet with United States Department of Housing and Urban Development officials about helping finance the new apartments that will eventually replace Sheds 3 and 4. The developers are also getting $15 million out of the city’s Farmers Market Tax Increment Financing District, and that deal’s tethered to an affordable-housing component — 20 percent, in this case.
But those apartments won’t take shape for a long while; Evans says it’ll be about two years until the renderings shown to council in February become a little more tangible. Shed 1 won’t be touched until the end of growing season; Shed 2, says Black, will begin its makeover in about a year. And Sheds 3 and 4 will remain until the new parking structure’s in place. Between now and all that, say Evans and Black, there’s much design work to be done, with everything more or less put on hold until the deal was dotted-i-crossed-t-done this week.
To be clear, the market may be privatized, but the city, which is on the hook for a $670,000 Public Private Partnership Grant, isn’t completely out of it. There are the TIF agreements, as well as other rules concerning the use of the property. For instance, Shed 1 has to stay a farmers market; otherwise, the city can take it back. Shed 2 is deed-restricted for specialty retail, restaurants, and a beer garden. And Sheds 3 and 4 have to be used for residential and parking, along with ground-floor retail.
But the city’s no longer on the hook for the market, which lost $3.7 million over the last six fiscal years. Evans says the city will have to keep an eye on the market, but insists it won’t interfere.
“We want them to operate it as a private business, and we want them to be successful as a private sector entity,” he says. “We have controls, but we want them to have certain freedoms to make the market prosperous.”
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